Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

“What I Did This Summer,” in 1,000 words or less

The kids of Arlington County go back to school tomorrow. Some of them will undoubtedly be asked to write a “What I did this summer” essay, so I’ve decided to join them.

If anecdotal evidence and comic strips are any indication, kids loathe this assignment. I’m pretty sure the teachers of Orange Hunt Elementary and Lake Braddock Secondary never inflicted it on me, but now that I’m staring it down, I think I’m starting to understand the dread. Being forced to break up with summer—especially a really good one– is hard enough, but having to relive the relationship on paper while the wound is still fresh? That’s a special torture. Compounding the pain for these kids is the likelihood that I they probably haven’t written a full sentence for months, and now, like a couch potato drafted into a mandatory jogging program, they have to write a whole essay. Even if there’s some satisfaction once you’ve done the task, the actual doing can feel like a joyless slog.

I get it, kids, on both fronts. And I feel more than a pang of longing as I say goodbye to this particular summer, which featured adventures like:

  • Starting a new job. I’m 45, so changing jobs at this point in life is a bit like switching schools in ninth grade: exciting, scary, daunting, and invigorating. You’re not altogether new to the gig, so you have some sense of what your days will look like, but you don’t know anybody and you can’t find anything. Then again, maybe the new school analogy doesn’t quite fit here. I’ve joined a company loaded with millennials, so perhaps it’s more like Senior Citizens Day at the local high school. Regardless, I’m pleased to report the kids are all right, to say the very least, and I’d forgotten how much fun it can be to leave your comfort zone.
  • Storming Italy with Mom. We traveled from May 31 – June 10, and I meant to write about the trip the minute I got home, but like Donald Trump’s tax returns, my intentions somehow never materialized.  At this point, highlights are the best I can do. Our trip began in Naples, where my Aunt Caroline and Uncle Ed are living on a temporary assignment. Naples doesn’t get a lot of tourist love, perhaps because it’s let itself go a bit, but it’s situated in a picturesque location and is home to the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. As Ed drove us around town, I came to realize the official language of Naples isn’t Italian, it’s car horn. Ed’s not fluent yet, but I feel pretty good about his chances. Beyond driving, he and my aunt were incredible tour guides and hosts. Caroline chauffeured us to Gaeta – a lovely seaside town between Rome and

    Mom and Caroline in Naples

    Naples – and went on a ferry with us to the island of Capri, a place whose unique beauty I won’t diminish by attempting to describe it. Ed wins a special award for spending an entire Saturday driving all of us to various towns along the steep, curvy, incomparable Amalfi Coast (motto: “Where the sea is blue and the knuckles are white”). From there, Mom and I went on to Florence, where we art-ed it up at the Uffizi one day and hiked the Cinque Terre the next. That second excursion was my big idea, because the CT held the promise of spectacular, unique scenery. I hadn’t researched what the hiking would entail, but roving between the towns of this UNESCO World Heritage site on foot sounded right up my alley. At 73, Mom is very active and loves to watch her kids do things they love, so she gamely agreed. And boy, did the CT ever make good on its promise of spectacular. Not only did we get spectacularly beautiful scenery—the colorful hillside towns that look so charming in postcards leave you slack-jawed in person –but we also got IMG_1474spectacularly difficult hiking. The trails are clear but navigating them required taking lots of big steps up and down rocks and across streams. Had I realized up front that Cinque Terre is Italian for “blow a hammy,” I might have thought twice about subjecting Mom to it. IMG_1433But my mother, who was probably the oldest person in our guided group, powered right through it, a testament both to her fitness and her willingness to do anything for an Aperol Spritz. Our trip ended in Rome, perhaps my favorite city in the world and a very cool place to spend my 45th birthday. As I reflect on the trip, I think I liked the CT excursion best of all, and the memory of my mom hiking beside me along a cliff, wildflowers on one side and sea on the other, will always make me smile. Then again, when you’re hanging out with one of your favorite people, your favorite place is anywhere.

  • Trying standup comedy. I wrote about my first experience here. I did two more 5-minute sets, the second of which took place at a Georgetown Club called the Chinese Disco (which is neither Chinese nor disco, thanks for asking). I’m almost glad I don’t have video footage from that outing, because I’m not sure any of my material could compete with this photo. It has “Annual Christmas Card” written all over it.

Somehow this all just goes together.

So long, summer. I miss you already.

 

Comments

  1. Tish Jenkins says:

    Love your Chinese Disco annual Christmas Card idea! Can’t wait to find a stand up show that I can actually see. How lucky to have that awesome trip to Italy with your mom. When I spent a year in Europe during college, my mom came to visit over spring break. We traveled through Italy, too, and it is one of my most cherished memories.

    • Thanks, Tish! I should drag the rest of the clan over there for a festive photo. 😉 You’re so right about this trip with Mom – you understand better than most!

  2. Happy belated birthday! And I too have (had) and Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Ed. Too funny. My Aunt is still living and is in her 90s. Italy looks gorgeous. So jealous. And your hair looks cool straight. I’m having major war turmoil these days. Maybe it’s more getting old turmoil. And got ot hear about that new job.

    • Jamie!! It’s always great to see you here, and so funny about our matching Aunts and Uncles! I’ve been as derelict a reader as I have a writer, but I am starting to catch up on both fronts. 🙂 I can relate to the turmoil too, alas. So much change lately, and I’m at a point in life where I feel like I’m constantly looking both forward and back. Neither is unpleasant, but both are scary in their way. The job change represented a big unknown, but it’s been great so far. [pause to knock wood, throw salt over shoulder, etc.]

Trackbacks

  1. […] know what holiday makes me appreciate and respect my mom even more than Mother’s Day? Halloween, because that was when her Make-It-From-Scratch skills […]

  2. […] for traveling, I enjoy it very much, as evidenced by my recent trip to Italy with Mom. But most of the travelers Twitter suggests aren’t like me; they travel full-time and got […]

  3. […] but she didn’t let that stop her from seizing humongous common ground. And the same woman who hiked the Cinque Terre with me in May topped that feat by logging in six miles on the Mall, with six hours of standing in between, and […]

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